Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Laughter at the end of 2010

2010 zipped right by, didn't it? Looking back, so many funny things happened, even in the midst of considerable angst, especially in the library: technology gone awry, toilet events, unconventional patron behavior, bookdrop surprises, conversations at the checkout desk...the list goes on and on.

A recent encounter with a patron (I'll call him Mark) is an example. Mark is developmentally disabled. He's one of our favorite people. He remembers everyone's name and always asks about our day. He asked me what I was doing later in the evening and I replied that I was playing some Christmas music at a senior center. He was curious about the music and wondered how old the songs were. When I told him that one of the songs was 1,200 years old, he thought for a moment and asked, "Is that older than you?" His caregiver and I almost snorted with laughter. I could hear muffled giggling from nearby staff. It made everyone's day.

I'm still working my way through the Humor subject in our catalog. I'm down to the letter "V" and was scrolling through the search results when I came across this:
Humor - video recordings
Humor - vintage clothing
Humor - violent death
Humor - vocabulary
Humor...wait, what? What's humorous about violent death? I clicked on the link. Ah. The Darwin Awards. Ok then.

Some of my latest Internet favorites:

St. Francis de la Sissies performs, unforgettably, a classic piece. It's been around for a couple of years. Stick with it through the introduction. You will be rewarded.

Thanks to a facebook friend, I now visit wimp.com regularly. Wimp is a site where people post interesting videos, some more interesting than others. You'll find footage from news broadcasts, short clips of television programs, and an astonishing assortment of home video. It's perfect for browsing. That's how I discovered this footage of Billy Collins reading Litany. The only drawback about wimp: it isn't searchable. I discovered this when I tried to go back to the Billy Collins video. There are few things worse than having to endlessly scroll through lists, looking for that one thing that I neglected to bookmark.

And that's that for this post.

Overheard on Twitter: This week I: locked myself out of car AND office / got peanut butter on my shoe / got beard trimmings in my eye / got 3 hrs of sleep a night.

Same tweeter, directly after that: Oh and I forgot to return my library book on self-discipline. I'm sure all these things are unrelated.

Next time: next year. Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Wakeful Night

I should have known better. The impending holidays are partly to blame, because without them we wouldn't have egg nog in the house. And without the egg nog, I would have passed up the Starbucks Via. But I'm fond of egg nog in coffee and we had company over and that was that. Now I'm wide awake.

However, the Via isn't the only reason for my wakefulness. I can usually breathe myself to sleep, rhythmic breathing that's just deep enough to fool myself into drowsiness, and it was beginning to work until our motion-sensor light (mounted just outside our bedroom window) began to imitate a lighthouse. On and fade to Off. On and fade to Off. There was no discernible wind and our neighbors weren't doing their usual late-night mucking about. Had raccoons established a new pathway through our back garden and chosen this particular night to migrate single-file, evenly spaced?

Back to the breathing. Finally, I started to drift off.

Ken stirred and began to mutter quietly, "mumble mumble...mumble...in the middle of Spruce, Texas...mumble mumble..."

What? said my brain. (Uh oh.) Is there such a place as Spruce, Texas? Who cares? I answered. Well, I'm just curious. NO. It's late and I need to sleep. But...Spruce is an odd name for a Texas town. It's just something in his dream. Give it up. I can't.

The motion-sensor light advanced from lighthouse mode to strobe.

So, I've turned off the motion-sensor light. At this point, I am unconcerned if something horrible is skulking around out there. Also, I can say authoritatively that Texas is home to Grady Spruce High School and Grady Spruce YMCA Camp. A Blue Spruce will contentedly grow in South Texas if given the proper care. The Spruce Power Plant hums along in San Antonio. But there is no town named Spruce. Thank you, Google. It's good to have that settled. Perhaps now I can get some sleep.

Overheard on Twitter: I'm sure if I reheat this coffee a few more times I'll eventually remember to drink it.

Next time: family feet, unless something better comes along. Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Extracurricular Reading

Snow, glorious snow! The first snow of the season is falling. It does peculiar things to the neighborhood, changing not only how it looks but how it sounds. Snowflakes are miniature acoustical tiles, absorbing the familiar noises, hushing everything. It's wonderful, especially on a Sunday afternoon.

Someday we shall have a window seat, a place with cushions and a comfy quilt, a place to watch the snow and read. (A window seat is my equivalent to "When I am old, I shall wear purple.") Until that window seat happens, I'll have to be content with reading near the bedroom window, dipping into the books on my nightstand. There are at least three books, always, and I read them concurrently. There's a mix of genre in there but you'll consistently find something historical and something humorous. I've been thinking a lot about faith lately and so my pile o' books has included titles like Walking a Literary Labyrinth and The Inner Life.

Ellis Peters, in her Brother Cadfael series, beautifully captures how 13th century society viewed God, their awareness of His influence in all things. It certainly helped that the hours of the day were marked by offices, or services, times designated to stop and consider God's awesomeness. Compline, the end-of-the-day office, is my favorite. (KING FM broadcasts Compline every Sunday evening from St. Mark's Cathedral in Seattle.) These days, there are many distractions, a heightened feeling of hurriedness, and I get easily caught up in doing rather than being. Taking time out to listen to Compline on the radio is one of the things that helps me to regain some balance, to affirm God's presence in my life. Never mind that I also adore Gregorian chant.

The earliest Christian writings are intriguing. Most of them are unavailable in print but I can still read them online (huzzah for the Internet!). One of the best websites is Christian Classics Ethereal Library. I once joined a CCEL discussion group for the Christmas Hymns of Ephraim the Syriac. Whoa nelly - there were some serious scholars in the group, which intimidated the rest of us. The scholars finally backed off a bit and other members could participate, albeit a little sheepishly, but I was still way out of my league. Not the best experience, that. So I've stuck with reading CCEL on my own. I graze, browsing the titles and choosing those that catch my attention. A lot of the writing takes some getting used to. Early authors (like Ephraim the Syriac) wrote far more poetically than I'm used to reading, metaphor taken to the extreme.

CCEL. Sometimes it makes my head hurt, but it's where I'm going to hang out for awhile, my extracurricular reading.

And then I'll read Letters to Groucho.

Overheard on Twitter: Either the corner store overcharged me for these eyedrops or Tetrahydrozoline is a miracle compound utterly unmatched at relieving redness.

Next time: family feet. Stay tuned.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sing "Ho!" for the open road

We're in the throes of Study Abroad preparation. Our daughter is heading to Japan for three months, earning the final 12 credits required for her bachelor's degree in Japanese. She was beginning to feel nervous (as were we) because all of her senior year credits must be fulfilled by overseas study and she hadn't heard back from the Study Abroad program. What if she wasn't accepted? Would she have to reapply for Tokyo University's spring quarter? Should she revise her degree from Language to Culture, rather than take a chance on TU's availability?

Everything was finally settled by a letter in the mail, the bill for tuition. Aha! Receiving a bill implied that she'd been accepted in the program. We called the finance office and learned that she had been accepted nearly a month ago! The acceptance letter had clearly gone awry and she had missed a secondary deadline as a result, but the program folk were gracious and gave Amy extra time to submit the paperwork.

We're in the middle of getting that paperwork accomplished.

You know, parenting is just one surprise after another, even when children are into adulthood. The surprises lately have been grand, like Amy working diligently on her dream - a degree in Japanese Language. The surprise isn't that the goal is happening, but rather how we feel about it. We're just so proud of her. Add to that the news this week that Alden has decided to take the GRE and pursue a Master's degree, and we are just. . .full. It's so cool to see our kids happy and active in reaching their goals.

So, not much to do with humor, this post. Although. . .

I did have a moment at Reference this week. An excited patron came to the desk to say she had just seen the movie Troy. Brad Pitt had been so hot as Achilles and she was inspired to learn more. She wanted books, movies, everything we might have, especially photos of Achilles - was he as handsome as Brad was? Um.

Sometimes it's just so hard not to laugh.

I had to gently explain that this was Ancient Greece we were talking about here, before photography. Troy was a real city, way back when, and had indeed been under siege, but the story of Achilles' involvement was in Homer's Iliad, a tale of mythology written four centuries after the siege. She was taken aback by this but quickly recovered and asked if Iliad was available. It was, and so were some books about Greek history. In the end, she was a happy patron despite her disappointment about the photos.

Overheard on Twitter: When a human realizes work must be done, a subtle hormone is expressed, similar to feline pheromone. It makes cats instantly affectionate.

The tweet after that one: The more urgent the work, the stronger the hormone and thus the more fervent is the affection.

Next time: extracurricular reading. Stay tuned.

Friday, September 24, 2010

For pete's sake...

This morning, I've found myself humming "I'm Just a Girl Who Can't Say No." It's one of those inexplicable things that happen. I've tried singing the words instead of humming. I've tried humming the national anthem, a tune which usually dislodges viral humming, but it hasn't helped. Too bad I'm not at work today - I could make the hum worthwhile by infecting someone else with it.

You know, Oklahoma! simply bubbles with viral-humming candidates. The title tune has plagued me several times in the past, as has "The Farmer and the Cowman" (Should Be Friends) and "People Will Say We're In Love." Rogers and Hammerstein knew how to write solid, bouncy, singable songs. Although, regarding bouncy, I once caught myself humming "Pore Jud is Daid." You'd think that little number would be too slow and therefore unhummable. Nope, not for me.

Heh heh. It just occured to me that you may find yourself humming one of those tunes after reading this.

Overheard on Twitter: Trying to be sneaky with my pretzels but it's really quiet in here right now and the bag is not cooperating.

Next time: something far more interesting than this was, I hope. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Library Of Congress

It wasn't on my list of Things I Must Do. After all, I came to library employment later in life, after years of working with computer programming. But we were planning our trip to D.C. and there, on the map, was the Library of Congress. Aha!

We visited the LOC on Day 2, after a morning at the Capitol Building. A tunnel connected the Capitol to the LOC. We thought that meant we wouldn't have to go through security again. We were mistaken. Security gates are everywhere, even for something like the Air and Space Museum. Ah well.

Nearly every major building in town offers free tours and the LOC is no exception. Our Capitol tour guide was so personable and informative that we decided to join a formal tour group at the library. This turned out to be a mistake - the guide for our group announced that he was a little hoarse, a fact sadly demonstrated once we entered the Main (and very noisy) Hall. We couldn't hear him. We looked at each other and silently agreed that we needed to politely sneak away, an act accomplished as another group passed by. We simply moved to that group, amoeba-like, until we were far enough away from the original group to break off on our own.

There really are no words to describe the wonder that is the Library of Congress Main Hall. The exterior is imposing, certainly, with all its granite and marble, its statuary, the grand staircases and arches at the entrance...but the interior is breathtaking. The public area isn't as large as one would expect, as far as floor space goes, but the Main Hall soars.

Both of us decided it would be cool to get an LOC library card and inquired about it at the information desk. We could receive a card at the Madison Building across the street. However, (and we shouldn't have been surprised, really) only people conducting serious research are allowed into the Reading Room. It's not proper to obtain a card as a souvenir.

We left the information desk. Alrighty then, what interested us? What could we research? That was easy - Ken wanted to explore documents concerning the Civil War, I was interested in Charles Lamb. Off we went to the Madison Building.

It was a simple thing to apply for the card. I went first, showing my I.D. to the Keeper of the Cards. She asked for my research subject, I answered, and she handed me an application. Ken followed but she didn't asked him for his research subject. Perhaps she just tagged him with mine. We filled out the applications, had our photos taken, and were each handed our freshly-minted Library of Congress Reader's Card.

We didn't actually use our cards that day because we needed to get back to the Capitol in time to enter the House Gallery. I went back two days later, spending most of the day there while Ken enjoyed roaming the city and taking photos. (Apparently, researching the Civil War wasn't really an urgent project for him.)

Entering the building, I felt like the new kid at school. Armed with my Reader's Card, I asked the information desk staff for directions to the Reading Room. They pointed to a wall behind them, off in the distance, and said, "Follow that yellow hallway. There are signs to direct you from there."

The hallway wound around and around, with an occasional sign that boiled down to "Keep Going." Just as I was beginning to think I'd never find it, a "Cloakroom" sign appeared. Woohoo! This was where I would leave everything but my paper and pencil. I flashed my Card (feeling like a fraud), checked my stuff, and headed once again into the hallway.

I needed to order my materials first. I went into the room where this was supposed to happen. Now what? A lovely young woman helped me get logged in and I was free to request my Charles Lamb books, a task I accomplished after a bit of trial and error. It would take 30-45 minutes for them to be retrieved and delivered to the Reading Room for me, so I explored the LOC catalog for awhile.

And then, at last, I entered The Reading Room.

I spent nearly three hours there, reading Essays of Elia. I also had a book of Essay commentaries, written by Charles Lambs' contemporaries. Why Charles Lamb? Well. Have you ever read a book because it was mentioned in another book? I'm always curious: why did the author include that book? That's why I read Mansfield Park. In That Hideous Strength, it was the book that Jane Studdock wanted to read to settle her restlessness. Essays of Elia was the book involved in the opening chapters of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I'd never heard of Essays of Elia, so I was doubly intrigued.

I learned a lot about Charles Lamb through the commentaries. I learned that the essays were published in "The London Magazine" beginning in 1820, and that Elia was Lamb's pseudonym, chosen because it was the name of a close Italian friend from childhood. I finally learned how to pronounce Elia: ell-ee-uh, emphasis on the first syllable. The essays were written as if they were from a personal journal, with a huge dose of humor. Lamb's life contained more than a proper share of tragedy - his older sister, Mary, murdered their mother and seriously wounded their father. She had sanity issues and was in and out of hospitals all of her life. Charles took care of her. He never married, although not for want of trying. Charles dealt with depression (and no wonder), and was voluntarily hospitalized for it for several weeks. And yet, despite all of that, he wrote wonderful humorous essays, observations on society and culture. His writing reminds me of David Grayson. May I quote a couple of things?

From "Detached Thoughts on Books and Reading": Much depends upon when and where you read a book. In the five or six impatient minutes before the dinner is quite ready, who would think of taking up the Faery Queen for a stop-gap, or a volume of Bishop Andrewes' sermons?... Milton almost requires a solemn service of music to be played before you enter upon him...I should not care to be caught in the serious avenues of some cathedral alone, and reading Candide...

From "Grace Before Meat": C--- holds that a man cannot have a pure mind who refuses apple dumplings... (This essay's primary theme is that Grace should be said after the meal, when the diners are less distracted by the excellent scents arising from the food on the table and therefore able to more diligently focus on the One who provided it.)

Another essay, "Popular Fallacies", lists sixteen things that are not necessarily true, with a brief comment after each one explaining why it's a fallacy. I had to write them down. Two of my favorites from the list:

#10 - That handsome is as handsome does. ("Those who use this proverb have never seen Mrs Carmody.")

#13 - That you must love me, and you must love my dog.

By the way, the Reading Room is exactly what one would expect: shelves and shelves of books reaching to the domed ceiling, gentle ambient light, old wooden carrels shaped to fit the curve of the room (and numbered, in case you want books delivered directly to you), completely hushed. The hush, however, was broken mid-morning by an explosive sneeze that echoed for several seconds. I think I'm the only one who looked up. I know I'm the only one who smiled.

I hope to go back someday.

Overheard on Twitter: Just signed up for an event called Smashputt. Waiver said "*miniature golf may kill you." Sounds like my kind of golf.

Next time: more of our trip, possibly. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


We've been nomads recently, an aberration for us. We are usually such homebodies. But we went to Victoria (Ken joining me post-WLA) in August, and we've just returned from a week in D.C. Why D.C.? Ken was a spring-quarter intern with Senator Baucus' office (MT) way back in 1975 and was interested in revisiting the area. Friends in D.C. offered to put us up if we needed a place to stay. That's all it took.

We packed our bags with clothing appropriate for tropical temperatures and a good thing, too, because the weather was hot; not Pacific Northwest hot, but rather a muggy, fatiguing hot. Our friends call it "chewable air", a perfect description. There was dimension to it. We are both notoriously Nordic, drooping if it's over 80 degrees, so we became masters at scuttling quickly from one shady spot to the next, bracing ourselves for the long stretches of crisping sunshine. And you know, in the long run it wasn't that bad. If nothing else, travel expands one's adaptability.

We took as many guided tours as we could - the White House, the Capitol, the State Department, Lincoln's Cottage. We went on self-tours - Ford's Theater, the Old Post Office, Smithsonian Castle, Library of Congress, the Air and Space Museum. We became adept at using the Metro trains. Well, mostly adept. We had a mutual meltdown one afternoon. We hadn't eaten properly, we were out of water, we were in a Metro tunnel in the middle of rush hour, we were hot and sticky, we could not figure out which platform we needed to be on, and, as a result, we were having one of those conversations (ah, spousal bonding)...and I'm here to say that people in Washington D.C. are the most helpful people on earth. It must be due to the huge number of tourists that come to town. D.C.ers immediately recognize bewilderment (not to mention angst) and step right in to make it better. They got us on the proper platform and, bless them, suggested a couple of dining options that we could easily find at our destination.

It was a week of surprises. I wasn't prepared to be so affected by things. I've seen photographs of the city all my life. What American wouldn't recognize the Washington Monument or Lincoln Memorial? The Capitol Building's silhouette? So familiar. But, wow. Being inside the White House's east wing, walking through all those rooms (the Blue Room!), leaving the building through the door I see on the news, standing beneath the big cast iron lamp...there really aren't words for it. All of us lingered, not quite ready to leave the area, taking photos, trading tour stories. I looked up at the windows and saw that two of them were unique. The one on the left had a small stained-glass butterfly hanging in the center, the one on the right contained a small toy bird. I pointed them out to the kids on the tour. Could those be Malia and Sasha's rooms? It was never confirmed but we all decided that yes, they must belong to the First Daughters.

It isn't possible to blog about the whole trip. There is too much, even if I touched on highlights, because it's all highlights. We were able to get passes to both the House and the Senate galleries, courtesy of Norm Dicks' office, and were present at the first two votes in the House's opening session. That was an odd thing to watch and I confess to being mildly appalled. Granted, it was their first day back after summer break and people were reconnecting, there on the House floor. But some of them had brought their children and some of those children were not behaving as appropriately as one might hope. One boy was jumping on the chairs as his father looked on, twin girls were racing around the aisles, another boy was clearly on the near side of a tantrum. All this while an electronic vote was going on.

Compare that to the behavior expected of those of us watching from the Gallery: ten minutes before the session started, we'd unfolded our map to quietly help a foreign couple find their way to another building. A guard told us to put the map away. He pointed out that it was disrespectful to the House Floor to be paying attention to anything else but the House Floor. Mind you, there was only a stenographer on the House Floor at that moment. He was just sitting there, staring at the chair beside him. He looked about ready to nod off. We folded the map and gave it to the couple.

Good grief.

It was interesting, though, to watch all those Representatives once they came in. They were milling around, shaking hands, conversing, laughing. We played a version of Where's Waldo - who could find a Washington State Representative first? We saw Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank, along with a few other well-knowns, and Ken finally won, pointing out Jim McDermott. We watched him for a few minutes. He sauntered around but nobody spoke with him. It was like watching a school playground where the less-popular kid goes unnoticed, and we felt a little sorry for him.

Overheard on Twitter: It's breakfast time! Unfortunately there is nothing resembling breakfast in this house. You know what that means. #catfoodforbreakfast

Next time: the Library of Congress. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Turn, turn, turn

Autumn has arrived well ahead of its assigned date. As often happens, it is heralded by cold and rainy weather. We've officially acknowledged this by installing extra layers of bedding and replacing summerwear with sweaters. We came close to firing up the woodstove on Monday. We've never used the woodstove before mid-October and we'd rather not break with that tradition if we can help it but, gosh, it was cold on Monday.

This is my favorite season: golden light slanting through the trees, leaves beginning to drift down, colors changing. The earth smells different. The gentle, alarming spiders craft their webs right where we'll walk through them. The sparrows and finches are more vocal as they visit the feeder. September is a mixed month, joyful with birthdays and a wedding anniversary, quiet with remembrance for a parent who had a difficult passing.

Autumn is my personal State Of The Union time, a season to reflect, to study, to take an honest look at my life since the previous September. That sounds pretty serious! It isn't all that deep, most of the time, but I've felt restless lately, aware of patterns that I've allowed myself to settle into, and so the deeper reflection begins. What needs to change? I do.

Looks like a challenging interlude ahead.

Overheard on Twitter: I should really start a photo blog called "Non-Recyclable Things Found In My Building's Recycle Bin."

Speaking of Twitter, are you curious what people are saying about practically any topic you can name? Topsy is a good place to start. It's a search engine for tweets.

Next time: annual seasonal ponderings, continued. Stay tuned if you dare.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Vocabulary, humor in

Have you noticed how some words inspire a grin, maybe even a laugh? There may be no discernible reason for the humor. A word or phrase is often amusing only to a group, something that reminds them of a shared experience.

Our family has a few of these, as most families do. For example, the phrase "nut roll" is invoked when a family member doesn't hear what another person has said, and we smile, all because of a short yet memorable incident that occurred at a Colorado truck stop during a summer road trip.

One of our favorite words came up last night after we booked airline tickets with Midwest Airlines. I clicked on the Baggage tab to see what the Checked Baggage Fees would be and there, as I scrolled down the list, was an item that made me laugh loudly enough that Ken came into the room to see what was up. Here is the list:

Oversized Baggage
Charges will apply to items such as bicycles, scuba gear, surfboards, etc.
. $50 each way (nonstop or connect) for each bicycle.
. $75 each way (nonstop or connect) for each piece 63"-110".
. $100 each way (nonstop or connect) for antlers.


What is this, Fawlty Towers? Out of the blue, here was a word that is hilarious to all of the Lees. It's funny, of course, to find such an odd thing itemized in a baggage list. I would really like to know what happened in the past to cause the airline to give a set of antlers its very own fee. Perhaps (could it be true?) enough people travel with antlers that it warranted having a stated fee for them. Johnny Carson occasionally invited airline workers to display some of the things people had attempted to check as luggage. A 7-foot potted palm tree was one of those items so antlers may not be that unusual. But...why...?

We used to play a game, long ago when our kids were much younger, a game in which two people would stand and face one another. The players would take turns saying a single word while remaining expressionless. The goal was to find a word that would make the other person smile. Someone once won the game with the word 'antlers.' Why is it such an entertaining word? Who knows? For us, it just is. It's even funnier if we see it in print. That oversize baggage list was a double whammy, coming across it so unexpectedly.

It's the little things, apparently, that make my day.

Overheard on Twitter: I love the word "obfuscate" and I wish I had more reason to use it in my everyday life.

Next time: who knows? Stay tuned.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Pessimistic Idealist

Have you ever ordered a book on a whim, where something about the book - a review, a mention in a novel - catches your eye and you think Hm, I'd like to read that? That is how I ended up with The H. G. Wells Reader. I found it in my cubby just before I left for WLA and wondered why it was there. Had I really requested this? I'd already read "The Time Machine" and "The Invisible Man," years ago, and we'd seen "The Island of Doctor Moreau" at Taproot Theater. I considered myself well and truly finished with H. G. Wells. And yet, the Reader was in my cubby, my name on the Hold slip. I checked it out, took it home, and thought no more about it.

I was tidying up the living room on Thursday and discovered the Reader buried beneath a pile of National Geographics. Oh. Right. I picked it up, still puzzled over why I'd requested it. It wasn't until I looked at the table of contents that all was made clear. I couldn't remember exactly where I'd read about it, but somebody, somewhere, had included the Wells novelette "A History of Mr. Polly" (publ. 1910) in a list. The list had intrigued me - I have no idea why - and this title in particular had stood out as a must-read. The only KRL copy of the novelette was within the Reader, so that's what I ordered. Mystery solved.

I finished "A History of Mr. Polly" in two bedtime readings. H. G. Wells is an enigma to me. How could someone write so pessimistically and yet with such humor and hope? The story follows Mr. Polly from childhood through early middle age. Some passages were heavy going with long, convoluted sentences, the sort that one thinks what? and must reread to capture the point. I'll admit right here that I skimmed a bit along the way but it was a surprisingly good read. Wells captures human nature so poignantly, especially when the character is deeply conflicted about his dreams and the reality he's actually living.

This may seem odd, but I was reminded of Twain and Wodehouse while reading about Mr. Polly. There were unexpected and perfect phrases, understated descriptions that said much more than was actually written. An example: "...Mr. Polly went out early and reappeared with a purchase, a safety bicycle, which he proposed to study and master in the sandy lane below the Johnson's house. But over the struggles that preceded his mastery it is humane to draw a veil." That second sentence says everything and nothing, letting me fill in the blank, having already been given an understanding of Mr. Polly's history and personality. Alas for Mr. Polly.

There's another bit that made me laugh. Mr. Polly ends up at a riverside inn and stays to help the landlady. Uncle Jim is an outlaw family member whom the landlady fears. Jim shows up and warns off Mr. Polly: "I jest want to have a (decorated) word wiv you. See? Just a friendly word or two. Just to clear up any bloomin' errors. That's all I want. No need to be so (richly decorated) proud..."

See how funny that is? Who needs asterisks? I never knew H. G. Wells could write like that.

There are a couple of other excerpts and short stories in this Reader. Once I've read those, I shall consider my time with Mr. Wells complete.

Overheard on Twitter: Why is it the only men who have their phones attached to their belts are the ones who don't need extra attention drawn to their waistline?

Next time: still pondering WLA. Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A bit about the WLA conference

I left a week ago for Victoria. A week ago! My plan was to blog throughout the conference but that didn't happen and now I'm sifting through all of my notes and experiences, wondering which would be the most interesting bits to write about.

How about the Meet And Greet? Nope. That's only interesting if you participated. It was fun meeting people from wildly divergent library backgrounds, many of them attending the PNLA side of the conference.

The Registration Table? Again, not much beyond the satisfaction of welcoming attendees and making sure they had everything they needed. However, there was one thing...some of us had ribbons attached to our badges, identifying us as volunteers, IG Chairs, speakers, and etc. The volunteers could have an additional ribbon, our choice, and some of those choices were really funny, like "I Read Your Email", "Plays Well With Others", "Runs With Scissors", and so on. My ribbon was "My Ribbon Is Better than Yours." There was rampant Ribbon Envy - a lot of us wanted "Plays Well With Others" but that one ran out quickly. The leftover ribbon that nobody wanted: "Go Green."

The Authors? Oh my, yes.

Robert Sawyer, the keynote speaker, was so thought-provoking (I took notes, at a breakfast!) that I must now read one of his books. I read a lot of sci-fi back in the 1970s and have read almost nothing in that genre since then (a Robert Sawyer book will be a good dip in the sci-fi pool.) He spoke about the need for libraries to embrace societal changes, to find the areas that make us relevant, suggesting that our most important relevancy will involve being a community space for people. That was a key topic showing up in three different sessions I attended; it reminded me of all that KRL brainstorming about becoming the "heart of the community." (Offering table dances was one of the suggestions.)

Mr. Sawyer also pointed out that Mr. Spock, Science Officer, was the U.S.S. Enterprise's reference librarian. This was big news to all of us and he's right. Whenever Captain Kirk needed to know something, who did he turn to? Spock, who immediately went to his computer, accessed his electronic databases, and always, always, found the correct information. The Reference Desk will never be quite the same old desk for me.

Karen Cushman spoke at the CAYAS breakfast. I've loved her books ever since Cheryl, my first Branch Manager, handed Catherine, Called Birdy to me and said "You will love this book." It's a book I recommend to adults who are looking for a nice, no-surprises (i.e. sex, language) story. I forced our book group to read it and they loved it as much as I do.


Ms. Cushman told us her story, the wandering path that she took to becoming an author, and what a path it was! She spoke of (among many things) the influence that books and her neighborhood library had in her childhood, throughout her schooling, and as an adult. What a engaging and humorous speaker! Her voice is there, in her books. I must reread Catherine soon.

Clyde Ford was our final speaker, sharing his thoughts at the Friday evening banquet. Again, here's an author whose books I need to explore. That happens nearly every time I'm present at an author talk. The books become infused with the personal experience of hearing the author. Mr. Ford writes mysteries set in the San Juans, another plus. There's nothing like reading about an incident in a book and knowing, seeing in my mind's eye, exactly where that place is.

Authors, in person. One of the many good things a conference offers.

Overheard on Twitter: Wedgies. You can expect them. But somehow, you are never fully prepared.

Next time: other conference stuff, possibly, but probably not. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

WLA conference, day one: Getting There, continued

After doing a quick internal debrief of my entertaining taxi ride, I headed into the Victoria Clipper terminal. I'd never been on the Clipper but had heard it was a relaxing way to travel to Victoria, with friendly staff and beautiful scenery. The staff certainly lived up to the glowing reviews. Calm reigned, despite the masses of people confirming reservations and checking luggage. I surrendered to the luxury of checking one of my bags, then moved on to the waiting area.

The young woman checking boarding passes asked if I'd like to pre-board, an offer most likely prompted by my cane. You bet I would! My remaining bag was a little awkward and I had planned to board last to avoid being a nuisance (I hate the feeling that people are impeded by me when I'm slowed down by something.) The pre-board offer was too good to pass up.

I enjoyed the trip and would recommend the Clipper to everyone. The only thing that was less than perfect was something beyond the crew's control - we were in heavy fog until the final ten minutes of our trip. No scenery for us! Ah well.

The best part of the journey was listening to snippets of other people's conversations. One couple was especially interesting. They were doing a crossword puzzle together to pass the time and were pondering some of the clues aloud. Two snippets that I had to capture in my notebook:

"The clue is 'member of the carrot family', with five letters. Would that be 'onion'?"

"Ok, the next one is 'goes by quickly', six letters starting with 's'. . . (pause) . . . I bet it's 'summer'." (I desperately wanted to suggest 'speeds'.)

- - - - - - -

It's early evening. I've covered a two-hour shift at the registration table, an assignment that gave me the chance to find other attendees from KRL. Now I am about to prepare the SAM table for the Meet And Greet. SAM, in case you don't know, is the interest group for Supervisors, Administrators, and Managers. It's not all that exciting as interest groups go, especially if you compare us to an IG like CAYAS - Children and Young Adult Services (CAYAS is pronounced 'chaos'.) CAYAS is a total hoot of an IG. But SAM can hold its own at the Meet And Greet. It should be a fine evening.

Overheard on Twitter: Hear me out: a bike, but instead of bike wheels, it has ROLLERBLADES. One boot in the front, one boot in the back.

Next time: day two of the conference. Stay tuned.

WLA Conference, day one: Getting There

I’ve had the good fortune to attend several conferences in the last nine years. Most of my conference travel has been in carpools. Those have always been excellent opportunities for getting to know other staff because there’s plenty of time for meandering conversations. This year, however, I am traveling solo and it has been an adventure of sorts, involving a car, two ferries, a bus, two taxis, the Victoria Clipper, and good walking shoes.

The first Seattle taxi ride was mostly uneventful. I had planned to spend the night at our son's apartment, so he met me downtown. We flagged a cab, gave him the address, and off we went. It was immediately apparent that the driver wasn't familiar with where we wanted to go. We ended up giving him detailed directions to an area that we had assumed he would know. Cherry Street is a major arterial, after all. But it was no problem, just a minor surprise.

The next morning, I called Yellow Cab to request a pickup. All was arranged and I awaited the cab’s call, which came right on time. It took a couple of minutes to get out the door (pulling two small, rolling cases and using a cane.) My phone rang. It was the driver.

“Are you coming?” he asked.
"Yes, I'll be right there," I replied.
In less than ten seconds, my phone rang again. It was the Yellow Cab dispatcher.

"The driver says you aren't there."
"I am there. I just have to get out to the street."
"Ok. Have a nice trip."
Almost immediately, my phone rang a third time. Are you kidding me, I thought.

"Are you coming?" asked the driver.
"Yes, you should be able to see me. I'm just a little slow getting down the stairs."
"What stairs?"
"What do you mean, what stairs? The stairs in front of the building."
"There are no stairs here."

A puzzled pause.

"What address do you have for me?" I asked.

The wrong one, seriously wrong. He was on the north side of downtown, I was in the Central District. We parried, he and I, over where I was supposed to be. (Did I mention that he had a thick East Indian accent? Not helpful, especially on a cell phone.) I called the Yellow Cab dispatcher to redirect the driver, who arrived within minutes. He loaded my bags into the trunk and we zoomed off to the Victoria Clipper.

I apologized for the confusion over the address, although I lived in Seattle for years and therefore knew quite well how to give a correct Seattle address. I was rewarded with a curt tutorial on Seattle streets and how addresses are organized. He was really starting to riff on this theme when he was interrupted by his cell phone; a heated, earnest discussion took place (in his native tongue) with who was clearly the Yellow Cab dispatcher. He ended the call. The rest of the journey was silent.

We finally pulled up to the Clipper. He helped me out of the cab and took my bags to the sidewalk, smiling, eerily friendly, and wished me a pleasant journey.

He did not receive a tip.

Overheard on Twitter: lead pipe wielding maniac? lead pipe-wielding maniac? lead-pipe-wielding maniac?

Next time: Day One continued - The Victoria Clipper. Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Moan

My Twitter account has been odd this evening, mostly due to Epic Retweeting on the part of one of the people I follow, a librarian in England. Thanks to her, I have received announcements from Heathrow Airport chronicling some transit issues. (It's reassuring to know that all is well once again with Heathrow's express train service.) I received seventeen, count 'em, seventeen retweets about a buzzard that showed up in a garden, all posted within a 30-second period. And she retweeted, verbatim, the garbage chute scene from the original Star Wars film.

So mystifying. Was it a slow day at the Reference Desk, there in the U.K.? It was tempting to bleat about this to Ken, but he's working on his Nutrition studies and wouldn't offer much in the way of commiseration. So I've shared my petty annoyance here. But there's a funny side to it, too. Someone else, completely unconnected to the previous retweeter, tweeted: Why does everything have to be about Star Wars all the time? Can't we all decide on another cultural touchstone?

Did I mention that I follow Darth Vader on Twitter? He had nothing to do with any of the stuff I've mentioned.

In other news, literally, here's a newspaper article to warm the hearts of grammar nerds everywhere, thanks to a tweet from GrammarGirl.

Twitter seems to have become the unintentional theme of this blogpost.

...Overheard on Twitter: Oh man SIGN ME UP IMMEDIATELY http://losangeles.craigslist.org/lac/etc/1870544367.html

Next time: something that has nothing to do with Twitter, I promise. Stay tuned.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Brits behaving badly

I realized today that a lot of what I've been reading could fall under the heading "Beach Reads", books that are light and undemanding, great for the summer season. You Can Get Arrested For That certainly fits the description. It's the true story of two Brits who traveled to the U.S. to intentionally break stupid laws. There are many absurdities in our country's legal codes and it was pleasant reading, following these two on their quest. They weren't always successful but managed to break enough laws to make their journey worthwhile. They fished while wearing pajamas in Illinois, entered a theater within three hours of eating garlic in Indiana, and peeled an orange in a hotel room in California. The unfortunate thing about the book was the constant drunkenness chronicled throughout. Did the reader really need to know that our travelers drank themselves silly in every Hooters they encountered? Alas.

You Can Get Arrested For That spurred a personal inquiry into our own state's peculiar laws. We've got 'em, although it sometimes takes a literal translation of the RCW to see how a law could be considered dumb. An example: no person may walk about in public if he or she has the common cold (per RCW 70.54.050, which forbids willfully exposing someone else to an infectious disease.) But some laws get right to the point, clearly making it illegal to pretend that one's parents are rich, buy a mattress on Sunday, or (love this one) paint polka dots on the American flag. Why are polka dots singled out? What happened, way back when? All of these have back-stories and I wish I knew them.

In Bremerton, you may not shuck peanuts on the street. You heard me. Don't do it.

Alphabet Juice, by Roy Blount Jr, is a great book for those who love everything to do with words. It's a dictionary, of sorts, offering alphabetic lists of words, expounding on their etymology, playing with usage, often leapfrogging from one fact to another and ending up far from where you started. I'd heard of Mr. Blount (Jr) but hadn't read anything written by him until Alphabet Juice. Shameful, really. He is right up my alley, in there with all the other smart and wry and funny folk, and I'm sorry I didn't pay attention earlier. An Author Binge may be looming.

Overheard on Twitter: Is it uncouth to eat the mac and cheese right out of the pot if it's just for you?

Next time: smoke alarms. Stay tuned.

(p.s. Regarding peanut laws, it is illegal to sell peanuts in Lee County, AL, after sundown. On Wednesdays.)

Friday, July 9, 2010

The saga continues...

...the saga of reading humorous library books. A fresh batch came in this week, notable titles that are all living up to their promise.

Let's start with "Ophelia Joined the Group Maidens Who Don't Float" by Sarah Schmelling, one of the more offbeat books so far. The title refers to a Facebook attribute where members can join with like-minded souls on practically any subject or special interest you can imagine. I belong to various groups, including one named "When I read your status, I mentally correct your grammar mistakes." I belong because I actually do that. (I don't scoff at the mistakes, I just notice them and think Hm, that's not right.)

The book offers Facebook pages of books, plays, authors, and literary characters, with status updates, news feeds, profile info, the works. Juliet Capulet's relationship status is "It's complicated." Jane Austen has 4,537 pending friend requests. On an author's wall: Edgar Allan Poe is reading a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore.

Hamlet's Facebook page is one of the best. You get the whole play through the News Feed. In fact, on Amazon.com a reviewer wrote this about the entire book: "It's like super-cliffs notes for the Facebook generation." James Joyce has a page. So does Oscar Wilde and Dr. Jekyll (Dr. Jekyll is not himself these days.) You'll find "Little Women", "This House of Mirth", and "Great Expectations."

"Ophelia.." isn't a book to read straight through. It's better if you simply dip into it here and there. And it's best if you're familiar with classic literature and use Facebook, otherwise some of it won't make much sense. For example, a sequence from Hamlet:

Hamlet posts an Event: A Play That's Totally Fictional and in No Way About My Family
The King comments "What is wrong with you?"
Polonius thinks this curtain looks like a good thing to hide behind.
Polonius is no longer online.
Hamlet added England to the Places I've Been application.

If you don't use Facebook, those five lines won't be as entertaining as they truly are.

This book also reminds me of a webcomic, Hark A Vagrant, which takes classic (and not so classic) literature and irreverently shakes it up a bit.

"Ophelia Joined the Group Maidens Who Don't Float." An unusual book that will make you smile.

Overheard on Twitter: Not really sure of the protocol. I mean, do I bring my OWN rubber chicken or are they provided?

Next time: Brits behaving badly. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Summer Jobs

Our daughter is home from college for 6 months, waiting for approval for her study abroad. What's a 21-year-old to do, moving away from her independent world and back to her hometown and childhood room? First up: find a summer job, not an easy task these days, especially in South Kitsap.

Back in the day, if you were a kid and lived anywhere in the Willamette Valley, your summer days were probably involved with produce. Either you picked it or helped process it. I did both, starting with picking when I was in 6th grade. The farm buses came and accepted any kid who was waiting. We mostly picked berries and were paid by the number of flats we filled. It was good money for a preteen. One time, the buses took us to fields of green beans and everyone rejoiced. Green beans were much easier to pick because pickers could stand up most of the time. The pole beans provided shade, too, from that hot Willamette sun. We were paid by the pound for beans.

Green beans offered a diversion, too, a game called War Bean. Pickers would watch for beans that had grown into a U-shape, usually found near the ground. Two pickers would interlock their beans and pull. The bean that remained intact was the winning bean. I once owned a War Bean that reigned for most of the picking season, its resilience likely due to the gradual leathering that happens to aged beans.

Hops were the worst crop ever for a produce picker. The variety that we picked usually matured in the hottest part of the summer, late August. They were itchy plants so we had to wear long sleeves and gloves to protect our skin. To mitigate the heat, we picked at night under bright kleig-style lights, lights which attracted every flying insect in the county. It was great fun. The only benefit of picking hops was being paid by the hour.

I finally graduated from the fields to a cannery. The canneries received produce trucked in throughout the day from the surrounding farms. The flats were placed in a huge cooling room to await processing that evening. Line workers arrived around 4:00 p.m., suited up with gloves and hairnets, and took their places along the conveyer belts. We processed all of the fruit from that day, our shift lengths dependent on how much fruit had come in. We would regularly work 10 to 12-hour shifts during mid-summer.

I loved it. Working at the cannery was one of my favorite jobs in a lifetime of work. There was a camaraderie common to groups of people who work hard together. People played mild practical jokes on each other; we celebrated birthdays; tokens of recognition were given for silly things like Best Hat On A Forklift Operator.

The conveyor belt workers lined up along the conveyor belt according to seniority, mostly, with the newest workers next to the rinsing area. Ah, the rinsing area. This was where muscular guys would dump the contents of berry flats onto a screen. The berries would move along through a spray of water which removed dust and dirt. From there, the fruit gently tumbled onto a belt that slowly moved past us, the line workers. It was up to us to pick out all the non-fruit bits. At the end of the belt, 60 feet from the rinsing station, the fruit fell into gallon buckets.

There were six teams of two, one person on either side of the belt. You could "move up the line", a promotion of sorts, advancing positions along the conveyor belt. The people at the end of the line had the best eyes for little bits of stuff and good reflexes for picking that stuff out quickly. I finally made my way up there, literally up there, because the belt went uphill.

The line was reliably monotonous, strawberries strawberries strawberries going by, changing only with the crops, raspberries raspberries raspberries... But once in awhile, something happened.

It was the height of strawberry season. I was at the top of the line, working across the belt from Janet. Things were moving smoothly, strawberries strawberries strawberries, when we noticed a commotion near the rinsing station. We tried to figure out what was going on, looking back along the belt while trying to maintain eye contact with the belt contents. Something was definitely up at the rinsing area because those two workers were gesturing frantically at the belt. The next pair of workers began to gesture, too, jumping back from the line. So did the next pair. One of them shrieked. Janet and I became concerned. We called out "what's wrong?" but all we could hear was "Stop the belt!"

Stopping the belt was something that had never been done during my time there. Janet hit the large red button and the belt slowed to a stop, just in time. There, in front of us, mixed in with the strawberries, were lots of tiny green frogs. Clearly, field workers (6th graders, most certainly) had happened upon a community of frogs and decided to share them with the cannery workers. The frogs had been buried under layers of strawberries, unnoticed by those unloading the flats. The cooling room had put them into a mild hibernation, a state that was rudely interrupted by water sprays and bouncing screens. By the time the frogs came through the rinse, they were fully awake, on alert, jumping about. Line workers weren't expecting frogs to show up on the belt and they jumped about, too.

We corralled the frogs, a difficult task because there were a lot of them. It's also hard to catch a frog when a coworker is dancing around trying to avoid it. Not to mention that those of us who were not frogophobes were laughing pretty heartily. The line was down for nearly an hour, an unprecedented event, but we had to make sure that no frog ended up in a gallon bucket of fruit.

It was the best night ever at the cannery.

Overheard on Twitter: This cat is like grout. Just finds any crack between people, couch pillows, etc, pours herself in and sets up.

Next time: other jobs I have known, maybe. Stay tuned.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Tell Me A Joke!

I met a lot of interesting people during my stays in a Pediatric Ward. Some of those folk made daily appearances: nursing staff, interns, the cleaning ladies who all had interesting accents. There were Gurney Men, the men who would whisk a kid off to surgery or to be x-rayed. Sometimes the Person Who Takes Blood would come down the hall, heralded by the clinking of glass tubes in his cart. There were Sisters of Providence in their black-and-white habits, so intriguing to a Protestant child. They came every evening to say a bedtime prayer with me, the same prayer, a prayer that gave me the willies when I thought about the words (...and if I die before I wake...)

There were student nurses, young women who were allowed to give me penicillin shots because (the Head Nurse said) I was a trooper and could take it if they messed up. She said that to a 10-year-old. Looking back, I think she was helping me be brave because I had to have those shots four times a day. In all my time in the hospital, there was only one student nurse who seriously misfired a penicillin shot. It's telling that I still remember that.

I especially remember one student nurse, Julie, who had a natural gift for nursing children. She could go into any room and, no matter how cranky a child might be, have that child soothed and comfortable in minutes. She just had a knack, especially with those of us who were there for weeks and weeks. A special memory: Julie was ending her tour of duty as a student. It was June, time for the Rose Festival, and the Navy had just sailed up the Willamette into town. There was a special naval guest that year, a ship from Great Britain. Julie's boyfriend was on that ship! This was totally cool - not just a boyfriend, but a boyfriend from England! Julie brought him to the hospital to visit. He gave me a book about British naval history and signed my body-cast, drawing the British flag next to his name. When the cast came off a couple of months later, I asked them to cut around his signature so I could keep it. That bit of plaster is long gone, of course, but it was special for a long, long time.

Most people wouldn't link "hospital" with "humor" but many of my memories are of funny things that happened, like the time I came back from surgery in a fresh body-cast. The nurses moved me from the gurney to the bed. I was accompanied by the bedsheet. This puzzled the nurses - neither of them were holding onto anything but me. Behold! The casting people had plastered a significant portion of the bedsheet into my cast. The nurses' comments, once they figured out what was wrong, was really funny, a mix of consternation and amusement. Just imagine the entertainment this provided for an ether-grogged child.

A highlight was the Doctors' rounds. Doctors actually came around every day to see their patients and spend time with them, even when the patients were kids. One of the doctors shared my appreciation for the Marx Brothers and he made a point of coming in and telling me a joke whenever he had patients to visit. He also expected me to have one ready for him. We even had a small competition to see who could make the best pun. He took that time with me even though I wasn't one of his patients.

I remember one of my jokes, discovered within a comic book. Brace yourself:

Me: What was Snow White's sister's name?
Dr.: Hmmm. I give up. What was Snow White's sister's name?
Me: Egg White! Get the yolk?

That joke totally cracked me up when I was 8.

Overheard on Twitter: Dude next to me on the plane is very vocally professing love to his entire family. The ironic potential of this is worrisome.

Next time: The Frogs and the Strawberries. Stay tuned.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Peculiar donated books

Behold! A new look for the blog. It was time.

Over the last year, we've received a steady stream of book donations from a patron. She had hoped to open a used-book shop with her mom but circumstances prevented it; now she's bringing those books to us, box by box. We open each one with anticipation. What wonders are awaiting us?

Sometimes there are no wonders, just old books that may have been valuable at one time but are no longer sought after. Author popularity comes and goes. Keep an eye on current culture - what book is the basis of a newly-released film? That book, one that may have been ignored for years, will suddenly be the book people want to read, along with everything else written by that author. The author's 'value' rises in the used-book world.

The same is true about subjects. In 2008, we couldn't keep a knitting book on the shelf. One would come in and go right back out. That tapered off a little in 2009, giving way to the newer hot topic, jewelry-making. And I'm reminded of the Poker craze of 2003 - it seemed that everyone wanted to learn poker strategies, inspired by the opportunity to play poker online (with websites trumpeting win thousands!) Poker books just sit there, now.

Back to the donated books. As I said, some of them had been worth a lot of money but nobody is interested in them now unless they collect the specific author or subject. The economy has stifled used-book prices, too. However, while they may not command a 'collectible' price, a lot of the books have a major coolness factor.

Some favorites:

Goat Gland Transplantation, worth about .25 as a book but priceless as a Cool Title. There was a time in the early 1900s when medicine was, well, weird. There was a lot of experimentation going on. This was one of the premier books on the subject.

Whistling as an Art (1925) - I had no idea that whistling has its own tablature.

Cutie, A Warm Mamma (1924) - Ok, this one is simply wonderful. Harold is an upright young man, Cutie is a woman of the night. The whole story concerns Harold's fall from uprightness. The best part of the book is the Epic Metaphor Awfulness. We suspect the authors did it on purpose. (A previous book by these two guys involved a character named Lesbia Lefkowitz.)

Father And Son (1946) - A government pamphlet covering what a father must teach his son about sex. The pamphlet is pretty humorous reading from a 2010 point of view, but it's also a good historic look at attitudes concerning personal health, marriage, and the family.

We have a cabinet in the branch that we're using to display some of the donated books, most of them children's books ca. 1880-1940. Patrons occasionally ask about them, wondering where they came from and whether any are for sale. One patron attempted a con, saying she had permission to look at the books and buy some. She was unsuccessful, in the end, but had convinced staff to open the cabinet and let her look. She talked about how wonderful it was to get a good deal. Ha! Someone alerted me and that was the end of that.

Donated books. One of the many things I love about working at the library.

Overheard on Twitter: Biggest lie in history: I have read and agree to the terms of use.

Next time: Tell Me A Joke. Stay tuned.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Waffleizer

Link-surfing is one of my favorite brainless activities, just letting the links take me where they will. I've found some terrific things, like the anti-mugging skirt created by a Japanese clothing designer (the skirt that - hey presto! - changes you into a faux canned-soda dispenser.) I've come across notable blogs, odd news reports, clever (or awful) merchandise, even readers advisories.

I was originally aided in link-surfing by Stumbleupon, a site I found during krl2.0. Just check the subject boxes that interest you and Stumbleupon will take you to something that fits those interests. I always check the Bizarre/Oddities box, just because. That's how I learned about Banksy, a graffiti artist whose work covers everything from political statement to sweet whimsy.

Stumbleupon also led me to JigsawDoku, an interactive brainteaser that helped me mightily during my Neville Period. Neville, by the way, is still nattering but only in the outer half of my hand. The nerve has consistently healed about 1/2" per month. At this rate, I should be Neville-free by June 2011 or so and I'll be able to type with all ten fingers. Now there's a goal.

Multi-link browsing led me to this, which just affirms that there are imaginative people everywhere. If I came across this rock, would I see Barney? Nope, probably not. I would see a rock.

I'm not sure how I found The Waffleizer (motto: Will It Waffle?) I'm reasonably certain that I started out at 101Cookbooks. There may have been a link in comments, which led me to another link, which led me to a blog, which...well, that's how these things happen.

The Waffleizer. I like this site. One of the things I most appreciate about it is the humorously matter-of-fact writing (the FAQs are wonderful.) I also like the fact that there is true curiosity there - he doesn't put any old thing in the waffle iron, but considers reasonable candidates. (Well, mostly reasonable. My jury is out about the cupcake trials.) You wouldn't think "pizza" in connection with waffling but after reading the post it makes perfect sense to give it a shot.

I actually tried one of his suggestions, waffling chocolate chip cookie dough. Our waffle iron creates hybrid waffles, not quite traditional but not quite the deeply-pocketed Belgian waffles either. The cookies surprised me by baking nicely in the waffle iron. Thank you, Waffleizer, for expanding my culinary horizons.

Overheard on Twitter: My next book will be 'Wikipedia Brown', about a boy detective who solves crimes by getting his friends to do all the work.

Next time: peculiar donated books. Stay tuned.

Saturday, June 5, 2010


Hi there! It's been awhile.

I'm enjoying my romp through KRL's humorous books. My current title is Dave Barry's newest, I'll Mature When I'm Dead. This book is responsible for unintended late-night reading. Dave's books are like the old potato chip commercial, you can't stop with just one. Chapter, that is. And pity the spouse who is trying to sleep despite the muffled laughter going on beside him. I've been paid back, though. I handed the book to Ken last week and invited him to take a humor break, give his brain a rest from Biology. Now he's the one snickering into the wee hours. (The vasectomy chapter is particularly entertaining.)

Dave's writing sneaks up on you. Ken likens it to watching someone spinning plates on those tall wobbly poles. The writing spins and spins and you think you're on track with it and suddenly - whoop! - the pole disappears and the words careen into unexpected and hilarious territory.

But the book I really want to highlight is Fork It Over: the intrepid adventures of a professional eater by Alan Richman, food critic. Food writing can be a mixed bag. Some books are more a collection of recipes or restaurant name-dropping than actual writing, while others are flat-out inspired. Fork It Over is one of the latter.

The book is a collection of essays that Richman wrote for Gentlemen's Quarterly. My favorite essay is about his search for the famed ill-tempered Jewish waiters of his youth (a chapter riddled with Yiddish phrases), but other essays are equally wonderful. He chronicles eating his way through dismaying East Coast barbeque, exploring the phenomenon known as Early Bird specials with his parents in Ft. Lauderdale, and pondering the difference between a dive and a joint. He dines, repeatedly and with some trepidation, at a restaurant connected to a Nation of Islam mosque. He travels to France with five men who take Wine Appreciation to an unbelievable level, men who have no problem with spending several thousand dollars on a meal (served with wine, of course.)

In the end, Fork It Over is really about Alan Richman, not so much the food. It gets a high recommendation from me. For what it's worth, Richman has received the James Beard Award 11 times.

Overheard on Twitter: About 5,090 Google results for "lookin for love in alderaan places"

Next time: The Waffleizer. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

My Life in Books, Part the Third

I've realized that I can't write an autobiography via the books I've read, at least not in a few posts. There is not enough time to write it properly and it isn't quite the subject for a humor blog, at least as a subject in itself. There have certainly been humorous encounters with books and I'll blog about those once in awhile. I might even give a paragraph or two to a book that looms large in my past.

Take, for instance, "God Is An Englishman" by R. F. Delderfield. I picked it up from a .25 cart at a used-book shop in 1975. It seemed like a slam-dunk Good Read. I had read Delderfield's "To Serve Them All My Days" and enjoyed it. The setting was one of my favorites, Victorian England. It was the first of a series so I knew there would be tales beyond this book. I bought it. And gave up on it halfway through. It was a total snore.

So why is this book notable? It was the first book I didn't read all the way to the end. Until I encountered "God Is An Englishman," I had never given up on a book. Never. There were difficult books in my past but I had soldiered through them (and mentally added them to my Never Again list.)

I'm not sure about the origin of my personal rule, Thou Shalt Read Every Book All The Way Through. It may have started during my childhood in the hospital. As mentioned before, reading kept me going while stuck in a body cast/traction/wheelchair. I had a good supply of books thanks to mom and the hospital staff, but there was one time...I ran out of something to read. Desperation. So, reading every book to its end meant I wouldn't run out of something to read before the next stack arrived. This mindset must have carried on in the background long past my hospital days.

"God Is An Englishman" will forever be the book that broke my personal rule.

It was freeing, actually. I was able to bail out on a book easily after that and a good thing, too, because there are some wretchedly-written books out there. There are books that beguile with an intriguing cover or glowing reviews, books that don't live up to their promise. "The Island of the Day Before" comes to mind. Huge critical reviews. I couldn't finish it. It didn't mean the book was a total dog. It simply wasn't the right time for me to read it. Thanks to "God Is An Englishman", I could acknowledge that fact and move to another book.

A side note. I attended a Readers Advisory workshop at WLA several years ago. The presenter's opening line was "How many here will read a book based solely on the cover?" Whoa nelly. The discussion was lively. People were ready to take each other to the mat about it. It was a terrific workshop.

Overheard on Twitter: Today, the kid figured out how to work drawers. Let the finger-smashing commence.

Next time: a favorite humorous book. Stay tuned.

Monday, May 3, 2010

My Life in Books, Part the Third?

Well, no. Not today. I'm shamelessly digressing.

GoDaddy is having a SuperBowl Commercial competition. The deadline for voting is May 7, so if you're interested in seeing a Kitsap entry, click here. If you like it, please vote! I think it's one of the better submissions. Dave McNab did a great job capturing "sitings" cliches. Also, my hubby is in it so I'm terribly biased.

Overheard on Twitter: It will be convenient if United and Continental merge because then I can just avoid one airline instead of two.

Next time: MLiB, PtT. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My Life in Books, Part the Second.

"You monkeys, you! You give me back my caps!"

I forgot to mention Caps For Sale in my list of favorite Captain Kangaroo books. My brain nattered on about it all night and most of today. I hope the book is now duly noted, cerebrally, and we can move on. Sheesh.

I've always been somebody who reads everything, fiction, nonfiction, magazines, soup cans, cracker boxes (mealtime Desperation Reading). . . so I started a list of my significant books, hoping to sort them all out before blogging about My Life In Books. This was a mistake. One book memory led to another and soon I was drowning in titles. I'm ready to write about my early adulthood books but all the adolescent-era books keep bubbling to the surface.

Take, for instance, the books my grandparents owned. They subscribed to Reader's Digest and had a massive collection of condensed books. I read 84 Charing Cross Road in one of them. I read it again years later and wondered what those Reader's Digest editors could possibly have taken out since it was already a short book. My grandparents also had a bookshelf devoted to gems and minerals, treasured aids in their rockhounding. They owned several volumes from The Five Foot Shelf of Books and a number of classics (heavy on Dickens, Stevenson, and Verne). Grandma still had a lot of the books she'd used in her classroom and Grandpa had a shelf devoted to humor (Robert Benchley was one of his favorite humorists.) Then there was the Miscellaneous Shelf, containing titles like The Winning of Barbara Worth and What Kinda Cactus Izzat?, along with Pilgrim's Progress and other inspirational writings. There were a lot of books in their home. I read them all.

I enjoyed building my personal library once I was out on my own. Portland was (still is, actually) a great city for readers. Powell's was a weekly stop, of course, but I particularly loved a little nook of a bookshop tucked into the basement of an office building, a shop that specialized in authors who were wonderful but unsung. That's where I discovered Zenna Henderson, a science fiction writer. She wrote books about The People, a race who had to flee their planet (it was self-destructing) and who landed unintentionally on Earth. She also wrote short stories, stories written with warmth and a level of spirituality that was rare in science fiction.

It was around this time that I became a Wodehouse nut, thanks to a garage sale purchase. I was beguiled by a sealed box of paperback books priced at $2.00, buying it just to see what was inside. Mulliner Nights was buried in there and it inspired a fresh Author Binge. Wodehouse is still a hot author for me. We raised our kids on his books (aided by PBS' Wodehouse Playhouse.) We visit the Random Wodehouse Quote generator on tumbler. Hm. I'm losing focus here.

1973 was a huge reading year. A friend handed her copy of Lord of the Rings to me, saying "Read this now." I did. I've reread it every three years ever since. Reading Tolkien led me to C. S. Lewis and George MacDonald. I finally read Wind In The Willows and Mark Twain's The Innocents Abroad and Gibran's The Prophet. I read a bunch of Harlequin Romance novels on a dare issued by a roommate. Believe me, you haven't experienced "formulaic" until you've read one of those.

Gosh. I'm only up to 1974. I knew I couldn't be brief.

Overheard on Twitter: What's that technique where you pan-fry cold pizza? Is there more to it than just "pan-fry cold pizza"?

Next time: My Life In Books, Part the Third. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

My Life in Books, Part the First

Currently circulating through Facebook: write a brief autobiography based on the books you've read and post it in Notes. My Life In Books. What a compelling idea. But how could I truly capture the influence that books have had? The more I thought about it, the more clearly I could see that this was something I'd need to explore in blogland rather than in Facebook. "Brief" was not going to happen.

According to Mom, I started reading when I was three. The first word I pointed to and read aloud was the, not your typical first word (perhaps an early indication of eccentricities to come.) The earliest books that I remember were the ones that Captain Kangaroo read, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, The Five Chinese Brothers, and Make Way for Ducklings. The Captain's storytime was my favorite part of the program, a great introduction to good books.

I spent a lot of time in a Portland hospital during my childhood, in for an odd orthopedic birth defect. Some of those surgeries were outstandingly-creative attempts to fix my peculiar hip joint. Reading was the answer to the weeks, sometimes months, of being stuck in a bed. Mom brought books for me, all the classic chapter books - Black Beauty, Heidi, Swiss Family Robinson, Homer Price...Homer Price! That was probably the first book to introduce me to humor in storytelling. All the others were so earnest, full of life lessons, early predecessors to After-School Specials. But Homer Price was funny, with stories about skunks and television superheroes and bracelets lost in donut makers.

Fast forward to high school. I met books that still influence my thinking, books that I regularly revisit. I discovered Elizabeth Goudge's The Scent of Water in the high school library, a book that made me homesick for England despite the fact that I had never been there. It inspired a lifelong hunt for all of Goudge's books, one of the few authors that I deliberately collect.

My favorite senior class was held in the early morning. The only thing we had to do was choose books and read them. No book reports, no analysis, just reading. What a heavenly class that was! The best book for that class was Les Miserables, originally chosen because it was the thickest book on the library shelves. I was a fast reader and I wanted a book that would last longer than a few days. Did it ever! Wow.

High school was responsible for some real yawners, too. We analyzed books right into the ground, killing any simple enjoyment of the story. The worst book? The Great Gatsby. To this day I don't understand the significance of green and yellow or the symbolism of the two Eggs or anything else. We talked the book to death, which is too bad because Fitzgerald was such a good chronicler of his generation. Ah well.

Summer vacations were full of public library visits. I went on Author Binges, especially during the summer that I worked at a produce processing plant. The shift started at 3:00 p.m. and ended when that day's produce was completely processed, sometimes into the early a.m. I have some hilarious stories from that job. Someday I'll write about The Tree Frogs and the Strawberries. Also The Snakes and the Green Beans. But I digress.

Author binges occurred when I discovered a great author and wanted to read more. One summer's reading included Donald E. Westlake, G. K. Chesterton, Franz Kafka, and Agatha Christie. An odd group, really, but they hit the spot. Agatha's books turned out to be more formulaic than I expected. By the time I'd read eight or nine, I could predict who had done it most of the time but that didn't stop me from reading all of her books. Westlake was the antithesis of Christie, humorous, gently irreverent, playing with detectives-in-gangland cliches. Chesterton, however, was a challenge, especially Orthodoxy. That was sturdy reading for a 16 year old but it was worth the effort. It revealed that I was fuzzy about my faith and inspired me to pay a lot more attention to what I believed, to think about it, to question things and sort them out. It was a relief sometimes to retreat to Father Brown.

Kafka was...Kafka.

One benefit to author bingeing: should the day come, I will be a formidable player on Jeopardy if "Donald E. Westlake" is a category.

Overheard on Twitter: Playing Tetris is essentially an object lesson in dealing with mistakes.

Next time: My Life in Books, Part the Second. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

One song leads to another

I found myself thinking about childhood songs last night. Music has always been a strong influence. When I was a child, nearly everyone in the family played an instrument (great-uncle Spencer was a Grand National Champion fiddler) and singing was a natural pastime. My public singing debut was a solo performance in our kindergarten graduation ceremony. I sang The Little White Duck. I can still sing it, complete with ominous tones when the little red snake comes along.

Grade school brought an opportunity to sing in a girl's group. All the girls were in 8th grade except me, a 2nd grader. I could hold my own with harmony but I suspect I was also in there for the Cute Factor, especially when we sang I Love Little Willy (I Do, Ma-Ma.) An early claim to fame: our group performed for J.F.K when he came through Portland campaigning for the presidency.

Humming I Love Little Willy sparked a memory of The Sunday School Bus. My parents would make sure that my brother and I were out on the corner every Sunday morning, waiting for the bus that took us to the 1st Baptist Church. We were the first stop on the route so we had our choice of seats. The bus cut a wide swath through the community of St. John and there wasn't an empty seat anywhere by the time the driver finally headed to the church.

The best part of the ride was coming home. Two wonderful men drove the bus, alternating Sundays. Both of them loved kids and it showed. They had sturdy rules about safety, of course. We had to remain in the seats, or else. They helped us stay in the seats by teaching us songs and singing them with us, silly songs, songs that sometimes took us to the edge. I'm still fond of Helen Had A Steamboat:

Helen had a steamboat,
The steamboat had a bell,
Helen went to Heaven and the
steamboat went to Helen had a steamboat, the steamboat had a bell...

Those were heady lyrics for a Baptist kid, because we almost said...you know...

My brother and I were always the last ones off the bus so we had a nice long ride, plenty of time to learn all those songs, the 3 and 4-part rounds, the classic campfire tunes, all of them. We sang Found A Peanut, and Be Kind To Your Web-Footed Friends, and The Worms Go In. We even sang (good Baptist children that we were) Ninety-Nine Bottles of Beer On The Wall. We sang serious songs, too, songs such as Battle Hymn of the Republic. And then, sometimes, the drivers would teach us parody verses, mine eyes have seen the glory of the burning of the school...

It's no wonder I grew up with a goofy sense of musical humor.

There's a classic round, One Bottle of Pop, that I would dearly love to teach to some library staff to sing at Staff Day. I changed the words to reflect the library (One library card two library cards...) and ran it by Shannon. She gave it an enthusiastic review so I shall hunt for staff who would like to participate in some musical fun.

Overheard on Twitter: learned 2 things today from twitter 1) the new edition of Scrabble will allow use of proper nouns 2) lots of people think this is a bad idea

Next time: humorists old and new, if I can remember what I wanted to write regarding them. Stay tuned.

Monday, March 29, 2010

I still have to share the mac.

I thought I would have a little more access to our computer now that Ken is finished with his English class and has moved on to Biology. I was wrong. It looks like he will be online even more, so posts will be erratic. Thursday nights may be open. We shall see.

I follow a few humor-connected celebrities on Twitter, just because. They're a quiet group, tweet-wise, probably because they are busy elsewhere doing interesting things. But once in awhile one of them shows up with a tweet. Stephen Fry strayed online just long enough to direct people to Dan & Dan's youtube post, The Daily Mail Song. If you've ever been in Britain and actually seen The Daily Mail, you'll know that those are real newspapers.

I also follow people who occasionally post links to serendipitous photos that they've taken. The best one this week: A Children's Guide to Splattered Bugs (found at a local 76 gas station.)

One recent Twitter development that I could do without is retweeting. I'll admit it, retweeting can be a phenomenal tool when spreading important information. An example is the Phone Number That Went 'Round The World when the earthquake struck Haiti. The phone number was for people to call if they had relatives in Haiti. It was pretty cool. But, apart from emergencies, retweeting drives me nuts. If Tweeter #1 enjoys a tweet from Tweeter #2, Tweeter #1 can retweet Tweeter #2's tweet so all of Tweeter #1's followers can enjoy it too. Viral tweeting. My first thought when I see these retweets is "Who are these people?" Those whom I truly like to follow get lost in all the excess conversation. Aargh.

Overheard on Twitter: Can you tell I'm home alone? Medium to low-brow tv and tweeting at the same time (and I have wine and chocolate)

Next time: humorists old and new. Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Happy Birthday, Twitter!

Twitter is officially four years old today, as of 12:50 p.m.

I learned this, appropriately, from a tweet this morning. Twitter has been responsible for a number of smiles as I've followed people through the last three years, and the application has given me grist for blog posts.

No Overheard on Twitter today, just a hearty congratulations.

Next time: those library tales I mentioned on Wednesday. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Google Fame

If you're interested in performing an intriguing search on Google, search for yourself. This was an email suggestion from one of our reference staff. Our family had done that years ago (we altavista'd back then, rather than googled) but I hadn't done it since, so I typed in my name. If you have a name as common as mine, you will end up with a long, long list of results. My results were fun to scan. I share a name with women who serve in government, who are musicians, who are in Code 911 columns for various crimes, even a woman who is on The Wall Street Journal's editorial board. I went deeply into the search results and didn't find anything related to me at all.

Then I tried searching something more unique to me: dulcigal. The top 18 results were me, with other dulcigals salted in among the remaining links. What was included in my top 18? A few of them were accounts I had set up during krl2.0. One of them was this blog but, oddly, the link was for an entry from January 2008 rather than a more recent post.

There were also things I've set up beyond krl2.0, like my "band" on Reverbnation, established so I could learn the process of recording and transferring music from GarageBand to the Web. I have a myspace page, too, set up in order to contact other musicians. You'd think musicians would want to be easily contacted but some of them, like Tugboat Bromberg, are only contactable through their myspace pages. So I signed on with myspace. Good ol' Tugboat.

One of my staff, curious about the whole Google Yourself exercise, typed in his social security number and experienced a momentary panic. His ssn showed up on someone's facebook page, in Spain! After a closer look, it turned out to be a telephone number and his deep concern changed to relief.

In other news, nonfiction has been the ticket for my reading over the last few years. I'm still working my way through the Humor subject search in our library catalog. I toyed with the idea of reading every humorous book in the library, inspired by J. A. Jacobs of The Know-It-All, but I had to rethink that project because there are 1,474 items in Humor and, frankly, I'm not single-minded enough to carry it out.

I have ordered a few to read, though, and enjoyed every one of them so far. There's no rhyme nor reason why a title might look interesting enough to place on Hold. Sometimes it's because I've read something similar and enjoyed the subject. That was certainly the case for Born to Kvetch: Yiddish language and culture in all its moods. This was a Hold slam-dunk, since I still reread Leo Rosten's The Joys of Yiddish. My favorite section in Kvetch was chapter 6, You Should Grow Like an Onion: The Yiddish Curse.

Another hit was Cake Wrecks: when professional cakes go hilariously wrong. That one was a happy discovery on our New shelf. I look at frosting with fresh eyes now. Yikes.

And although I won't read every book, I might look at every catalog entry because some of the titles have made me laugh, titles like Snark: a polemic in seven fits. I had to Look Inside that one.

Overheard on Twitter: I worry that we are the last generation to really care about Gary Coleman.

Next time: library tales. Stay tuned.